Chenjerai Hove: An Introduction to the Works

Rino Zhuwarara, Ph.D., Chair, Department of English, University of Zimbabwe

Chenjerai Hove is a writer who grew up acutely conscious of the injustice meted out to Africans during the colonial eraŅan awareness that was probably strengthened when he attended the Catholic Marist Brothers schools at Kutama and Dete in the 1970s. He also trained as a teacher in Gweru and taught English at several secondary schools while pursuing degree studies in literature and education with the University of South Africa (UNISA). During that time some of his love poems and stories in Shona were published in Nduri Dzorudo (1978) and Matende Mashava (1980), respectively. Fourteen of his poems in English, which were particularly inspired by aspects of the liberation war which he witnessed as a secondary school teacher, were published in And Now the Poets Speak (1980). Spurred on by his love for literature, he embarked on another Honours degree course in 1984 at the University of Zimbabwe, after which he resigned from teaching and became an edltor for Mambo Press in Gweru. Since then Hove has worked as an editor for several publishing concerns as well as being writer-in-residence at the University of Zimbabwe. Hove also has the distinction of being one of the founding members of the Zimbabwe Writers Union (ZIWI) and indeed was its Chairman from 1984 to 1992.

Hove's status as a serious creative artist was further confirmed with the publication of Up in Arms in 1982 and Red Hills of Home in 1985: both of these poetry collections received special mention by the judges of the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, in 1983 and 1986, respectively. Like Zimunya and Mungoshi, Hove continued to distinguish himself in his writings in English as well as in Shona. In almost all these writings he seems to be haunted by the plight of the weak and vulnerable members of society, those who find themselves pitted against more dominant historical and social forces but are powerless to define and defend their own interests. In an unpublished essay entitled "African literature: What shall we read?," he writes:

I seek to write books that remind us of what it is to be powerless or, indeed, to be powerful, and at the same time, strive to retrleve our historical consclence in an age when the worst can happen to both the weak and the strong in our socleties made fragile by so many political and cultural forces.

This preoccupation is evident in his only novel in Shona, Masimba Eanhu (1986), and his radio play in English, Sister Sing Again Someday (1989). The latter is based on the plight of the so-called 'prostitutes' who were rounded up and bundled out of Harare to make way for distinguished visitors who attended the Non-Aiigned Movement Conference in 1986. But the work that has particularly promoted Hove's literary prominence, especially with the international literati, is Bones (1988). This was his first novel in English, one which won the 1989 Zimbabwe Book Publishers Literary Award and the 1989 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. Such has been the interest that it is being translated into Japanese, German, Norwegian, French, Danish and Dutch.

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